November 10, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – The 7-acre permaculture (permanent agriculture) site at the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse Campus benefits the eco-system and the climate while bringing special treats to dining room tables at the Motherhouse. Elaine Johnson, Permaculture Specialist, explained the principles of permaculture and gave a virtual tour of the many aspects of the Congregation’s permaculture grounds in a recent presentation.
Permaculture is a “land-based design” for agriculture, in which practitioners learn from the rhythms and ways of nature and follow the principles of “Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share,” Elaine explained. Unlike traditional agriculture, which focuses on cash crops, permaculture aims to “revitalize the eco-system” so that the system is “not only productive for us, receiving the food, but it’s also productive for the Earth system,” to bring about land restoration.
In her presentation, Elaine explained various beneficial aspects of the Congregation’s permaculture site, from a rain catchment system that allows the Motherhouse to rely on recaptured rainwater for irrigation, to berms and swales – depressions and raised land to help in water retention.
Elaine also spoke of ways that permaculture can offset some of the damage of greenhouse gasses and climate change caused by the emission of carbon into the atmosphere. Carbon farming uses the soil as a “sink” to store the carbon and keep it out of the atmosphere. “The carbon sink in the soil is a partnership between plants and the sun and the soil,” Elaine explained. Plants take in the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store the carbon in their roots and exchange the carbon with soil organisms. “The organisms have that carbon in their bodies, and then they decompose and become part of the soil life cycle … so that it doesn’t come up into the atmosphere.”
On a more practical note, Elaine spoke of the community garden, kitchen garden, and edible food forest that help put food on the tables of people in the Adrian area, including those in the Motherhouse. This year, she said, the permaculture site produced 650 pounds of large tomatoes and 70 pints of bite-sized tomatoes, which were used in the Motherhouse salad bar, along with a variety of vegetables and assorted herbs used in preparing meals.
“One of the benefits is that it gave our diners more of a variety of vegetables, such as chard and root vegetables,” said Susan Kremski, Director of Food Services. She added that the blueberries and blackberries were plentiful and a “real treat” for the Sisters, Co-workers, and guests.
“This is the first big year for permaculture,” Susan said. The kitchen staff will work with the Co-workers from the permaculture site to evaluate this year and determine how to improve on the partnership for next year.
For more information on the permaculture site and how the many areas have been designed after studying nature, watch the video of Elaine’s presentation below.
October 25, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates, family members and friends, and members of the greater Adrian community gathered October 25 for a special celebration: the 100th birthday of Sister Ann Seraphim Schenk, OP. The celebration included a Mass in St. Catherine Chapel, a festive dinner for Sister Ann Seraphim and her family, and an afternoon reception.
During the Mass, which formally opened the celebration, Sister Ann Seraphim sat with her nieces and nephews, who had come from as far away as Illinois, California, New Jersey, and Texas to share in the celebration.
Father James Hug, SJ, Motherhouse Chaplain, in reflecting on the Gospel in which Jesus asks the disciples to let the children come to him, noted Sister Ann Seraphim’s example through her years as a teacher. Sister Ann Seraphim was a “wonderful example in our midst of God loving little children generation and generation after generation – blessing them, teaching them, praying with them, helping them to know God, laying your hands in blessing,” he said. “It’s a wonderful witness you’ve given to us of how Jesus loves little children. Thank you. Thank you.”
The afternoon reception gave Sisters and government officials the opportunity to pay tribute to Sister Ann Seraphim. Sister Patricia Dulka, OP, Chapter Prioress of many of the Sisters in the Dominican Life Center, noted the many people who benefited from Sister Ann Seraphim’s 100 years of life. “All the children that you touched, all the Sisters who lived with you and were especially taken by you, everybody that you touched, in some way they’re carrying that spirit because of you,” Sister Patricia said.
Sister Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor, extended congratulations on behalf of the entire General Council. “We just glory in the 100 years of life that you are serving and many years in this Congregation,” Sister Mary Margaret said.
Sister Mary Margaret noted that a special papal blessing from Pope Francis was on its way to Sister Ann Seraphim “in celebration of who you are and all of the service that you have given to the children of the world.” In addition, she extended the congratulations and blessings of Bishop Earl Boyea, of the Diocese of Lansing.
Sister Noella Marie McLeod, OP, sent an email noting Sister Ann Seraphim’s impact on her life, from the time that Sister Noella started kindergarten at St. Gabriel in Detroit to her entrance into the Congregation in 1956, when Sister Ann Seraphim served as her companion, and through the years beyond. “I thank God for you, a constant in my life for so many years,” she concluded.
James Berryman, Mayor of Adrian, presented Sister Ann Seraphim with the Mayor’s Community Service Award, based on a quotation by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Life’s most persistently burning question is, what are you doing for others?” To Sister Ann Seraphim, he said, “Your life’s dedication and work certainly exemplifies that quote. Thank you, Sister Ann Seraphim, for your years of service of God’s children and for the life of a Dominican Sister.”
Sister Ann Seraphim also received tributes and congratulations from U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), State Representative Bronna Kahle (R.-Dist. 57), State Senator Dale Zorn (R-Dist. 17), Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. In addition, Sister Ann Seraphim received a basket of about 140 birthday cards from Sisters and Associates from throughout the country.
Born October 25, 1917, in Belleville, Illinois, and baptized Doris Rose Schenk, Sister Ann Seraphim was the daughter of Henry and Linda (Hoff) Schenk. She graduated in 1936 from Bishop Muldoon High School in Rockford, Illinois – where she was taught by Adrian Dominican Sisters – and entered the Congregation in June of that year.
Sister Ann Seraphim was predominantly an educator, teaching in elementary schools in Michigan, Illinois, and Arizona. She taught general subjects and music in kindergarten and at various grades at the elementary level. “I taught everything from Kindergarten, first and second grade to elementary school graduation,” she recalled.
Her longest terms of service included ministering as elementary and music teacher at St. Gabriel, Detroit, 1939-1945; elementary and music teacher at St. Theresa, Detroit, 1951-1959; principal and teacher at St. Mary, Chelsea, Michigan, 1960-1966; and principal of St. Bridget, Love’s Park, Illinois, 1975 to 1989.
After her retirement in 1991, Sister Ann Seraphim volunteered at St. Patrick’s Clothes Closet in Rockford, Illinois, until she moved to the Dominican Life Center in Adrian in 2004.
Sister Ann Seraphim earned a bachelor’s degree in science in 1947 and a master’s degree in administration and school supervision in 1970, both from Siena Heights College (now University).
Among Sister Ann’s favorite memories was her work with math students. “They won several local contests,” she recalled. She also enjoyed teaching kindergarten. “I tried to be a part of them, to connect with them,” she said.
In her years of teaching, Sister Ann Seraphim taught a range of students, from those who were brilliant to those who had more difficulty in their studies. She recalled especially the efforts she put into teaching students who were challenged by their class work. “I had to find an angle to reach them so they could flow in there and start working with the larger group,” she explained. “Then they’d get fired up.”
Through the years, Sister Ann Seraphim has been avid in crocheting, having completed enough crochet projects – hats, scarves, mittens, shawls, and afghans – “to fill this whole room.” She has given her creations away as gifts and has sold her creations at the Motherhouse Christmas bazaar.
Asked about advice she would give to younger Sisters and to people who aspire to reach 100 years, Sister Ann Seraphim advised younger Sisters not to approach community life or ministry with the attitude that they are “it,” but rather to see themselves as part of something much greater than themselves. To those who wished to reach her age, she said, “Just don’t worry about how many days you’ve got – just go live them!”
Sister Ann Seraphim with her family.
Feature photo (top): Sister Joanne Peters, OP, Co-Chapter Prioress, presents Sister Ann Seraphim Schenk, OP, with a basket of birthday cards from Sisters and Associates around the country.